News, views and commentary from the telecoms sector across emerging markets and developing countries worldwide

Monday, 22 June 2009

CDMA-alive-and-well Watch: good news from India?

For the last month or so, media, analysts and bloggers have offered comment about the news that India has overtaken China to become the world's largest CDMA market. This was announced last month by the CDMA Development Group (CDG), the trade association whose role is to foster the worldwide development, implementation and use of CDMA2000 technologies.

According to the CDG, "there are now more than 100 million CDMA subscribers in India". This figure, however, is some distance from the number provided by the Informa Telecoms & Media World Cellular Information Service, according to which there were 77.1 million Indian CDMA subs by the end of March. According to WCIS figure, this rose from 72.6 million as of December 2008 and 66.6 million as of September 2008 - fairly consistent growth of about 5 million subs per quarter. If the WCIS figure are accurate, it's hard to imagine a sudden leap to 100 million subs by late May.

As well as impressive-sounding subcription numbers, the CDG press release also featured warmly supportive quotes from India's two leading CDMA operators:

"CDMA is a technology that allows a rich telecom experience, especially on the data side, and we are confident that in the years to come that experience will only get better, especially as 3G arrives and we are able to unleash the full potential of applications and services," said Mr. Anil Sardana, Managing Director of Tata Teleservices.

"We remain committed to further grow and serve our ever-increasing CDMA customer base through innovative applications, superior network quality and service and attractive value-propositions," said Mr. S.P. Shukla, President, Wireless of Reliance Communications.

The latter quote is interesting in light of an assertion by Informa Telecoms & Media that "India’s Reliance has also been looking to sideline CDMA for GSM/WCDMA" - a comment made in the analyst firm's Asia Pacific Mobile Market Analysis and Forecasts report, which was released this month.

That phenomenon of CDMA operators favouring the W-CDMA/HSPA flavour of mobile broadband over the CDMA family EV-DO route is, of course, not unique. The Informa report asserts that South Korea's "CDMA stalwarts" SK Telecom and KT "are vigorously pursuing HSDPA." The report contends that this will further the degree to which CDMA operators face disadvantages when competing with GSM/W-CDMA rivals, stating that "as Asia Pacific operators jump on the HSDPA bandwagon, handset pricing will continue to fall, meaning that EV-DOrA operators will struggle to compete on handset price. The same argument applies to EV-DOrA network prices."

Whichever set of numbers you choose to work with, then, (the CDG's 100 million vs. Informa's 77 million), it will be interesting to observe for how much longer India's CDMA subs growth continues and is cited as evidence for CDMA technology being in rude health.

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